The rumors of the grassroots’ demise are greatly exaggerated.
Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, foresaw the events that transpired at the NCGOP convention in Raleigh today. Cabarrus County Tea Party activist Hasan Harnett decisively defeated the establishment choice — somebody named Craig Collins — in the race for state Republican Party chairman. Collins had big name consultants in his corner, and had been endorsed by a veritable who’s who of the NCGOP. Many old political hands I talked to today laid blame for Collins’ defeat on the early bandwagon endorsements from the governor, lieutenant governor, US senators and right on down the line.
Gov. Pat has got to be feeling a bit punch-drunk. The legislature has slapped him around over his vetoes. Now, party activists put the kibosh on his choice for state party chairman. If it’s not yet clear that the
emperor governor has no clothes — IT SHOULD BE.
The day started off with the chairman’s race as a three-way between Harnett, Collins, and 6th district chairman A.J. Daoud. Those three spoke to the delegates before voting began. Daoud surprised everyone by withdrawing from the race — leaving it a Collins v. Harnett affair. Why did A.J. withdraw? A well-placed mole in the convention hall gave me their take:
”Daoud was approached by Collins’s team who told him ‘Hey, you can’t win.’ They then made him an offer he couldn’t refuse — one that could be quite lucrative — contingent on dropping out of the race and endorsing Collins. Daoud went back to his team — trying to lobby them to move over to Collins. And a freaking riot just about broke out. A.J.’s team was devoutly anti-establishment. They weren’t about to go over to the establishment camp after all of the work they put in. With A.J. out of the race, his supporters only had one place to go. Harnett.”
Ok, let’s review the winners and losers in the aftermath of today’s events:
WINNERS: Obviously Harnett and grassroots / Tea Party-friendly activists. Folks long locked out of the Raleigh clique now have the keys to the palace. During the campaign, Harnett actually spoke out against some of the less-than-conservative moves by the legislative leadership. This could signal a dramatic departure from the Pope era — where the chairman was the governor’s yes-man — to a new era of a state party that defends the platform, gives voice to limited government ideals, and speaks for the folks outside the beltline who don’t have lobbyists or inside connections.
LOSERS: Of course, Craig Collins. And let’s not forget all of those people who threw out their endorsements for a political unknown when Collins officially announced. How do you call yourself a party leader when the activists throw their support behind YOUR GUY’S opponent? The consultants and groupies who have hung out in party headquarters for years could also be in for a rude awakening.
I swear, I think it’s going to be great to watch Hasan go head-to-head with Bill Barber and his bunch at the NAACP.
I do see the potential out here for sore loser-ism among the Collins camp. Much like what happened when Randy Voller won the Democrat Party chairmanship. A lot of folks in that case took their marbles and went home. Super PACs were set up to circumvent the state party. Voller was bad-mouthed to donors and potential candidates. Let’s see if the Collins camp gives Harnett a chance to formulate a team and get up and running.
I’m going to try to be optimistic, but I won’t hold my breath. There are a lot of people who have gotten filthy rich over the years via the NCGOP cookie jar, who are now going to be a LOT further away from said cookie jar.
Congratulations to Team Harnett.